By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Harry appears to be on a nonstop Xanax trip. He is wired, depressed, and obsessive. He's constantly chattering, challenging, and probing; he scratches his balls and rummages through Jake's empty refrigerator -- all appropriate to his character. Now in his sixth play at GableStage, Tei has reached a new level of skill in Chinese Coffee. At one moment cagey, weak, and vulnerable, he is at the same time passionate. His character's vulnerability is a labyrinth of insecurity and passion. Together, Adler and Tei have crafted the quintessential artist -- neurotic, insecure, self-absorbed but also resolute in his struggle to defend the validity of his work.
Back to the stage after several years' hiatus, Gioia is incredibly powerful as the world-weary Jake. Gioia's excellent control of voice and mood almost threatens to overshadow a more subtle but brilliant aspect of his performance: his silence. His facial expressions along with Jeff Quinn's subtle lighting become a constant subplot, an untold story that is deeply rooted in this vitriolic encounter. When Harry confronts Jake on the true motive for criticizing his work so harshly, his nonverbal presence becomes monolithic and even frightening.
This is a play about values -- the value of a writer's effort, the value of something that has not attained commercial success. Then the flipside: What happens to the artistic value of creativity when it becomes monetarily qualified? It is also a portrait of human nature that is rarely so well portrayed in the plethora of movies and plays where an ethical question is at the crux of the matter -- both characters are incredibly sincere, mistaken, broken, and pliant.
How to make an hour and a half of two men arguing not look like a mere battle of wits or duel of words? Get an intelligent and poignant script and two excellent actors and get them up on GableStage.